Paper trail! Windsor Terrace community board begs for vital office supply

Paper trail! Windsor Terrace community board begs for vital office supply
Photo by Tom Callan

Brother, can you spare a ream?

That’s the question being asked by Community Board 7, whose finances are so tight that staffers are begging the public for that most basic office supply — paper.

“If you have a spare ream — donate it to us,” District Manager Jeremy Laufer told people who attended the board’s meeting in Sunset Park on Wednesday night.

The $206,000 budget for the Sunset Park and Windsor Terrace board is about the same as it was two years ago, but its four paid employees, including Laufer, received raises negotiated by the municipal employees union — eating up a bigger slice of the pie. That leaves little cash left over — about $4,000 — to run an office, he said.

And there’s even less money for basic supplies.

“We go through about $150 to $200 worth of paper a year — that doesn’t sound like much, but we’re dealing with a shoestring budget,” he noted.

Laufer, a 10-year board veteran, said the paper chase came to a head this year, when supplies stocked by a former staffer finally ran out.

Now, the office needs about 10 cases — or 50,000 sheets of paper — to make ends meet.

Laufer said his salary is just under $80,000 and that since his hiring, the board has maintained four staffers. The number of staff members varies depending on the particular community board, though: Park Slope’s Community Board 6 has two full timers and one part-time worker; Sheepshead Bay’s Board 15 has three full-timers; Bay Ridge’s Board 10 has two full-timers and one part-timer; East Flatbush’s Board 17 has four staffers.

Laufer said the paper shortage wasn’t a problem in the past, primarily because salaries were low enough to accommodate the cost of supplies.

“But that changed as people stayed and salaries increased through cost of living,” he said. “Our budget is dollar for dollar the same as it was two years ago, but because of salary increases, the amount dedicated to running an office is minimal at this point.”

E-mail and the board’s website has reduced the board’s paper consumption, but it hasn’t completely eliminated it. The board — which serves as an intermediary between the public and government — still needs to print out agendas for its monthly meeting, maintain copies of voluminous city plans for its records, and dispatch mailings to its 50 volunteer members and to the neighborhood it represents.

Mayor Bloomberg, who announced $1.6 billion in budget cuts on Wednesday took a tough love approach.

“Everyone has a set amount of funding for the year and they are aware of that funding amount,” said Bloomberg spokesman Marc LaVorgna. “You have to properly manage the dollars made available to you.”

Board 7’s dilemma is receiving sympathy from colleagues in neighboring districts.

“Running an office on $4,000 a year, he’s obviously got a real cash-flow problem,” said Craig Hammerman, district manager of the neighboring Community Board 6, which covers Park Slope, Cobble Hill and Red Hook. “At some point, this will catch up to all of us. We still have supplies, but if people are interested in donating, we’ll certainly take it.”

All community boards have the same budget of roughly $200,000, money used to cover expenses, personnel, as well as supplies and mailings. The lion’s share of the money goes to staff salaries. Each board — which acts as a middleman between residents and government — has 50 volunteer members.

Still, it’s not all dire. “We have plenty of paper clips,” Laufer noted.